Budget Friendly Guide to Visiting Orlando

Downtown Disney - Lego Dragon

A Budget-Friendly Guide to Orlando

Visit Disney

Sixty-six million tourists from across the world visited Orlando in 2015 alone, with most setting their sights on the city’s biggest attractions, including Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld. As the nation’s most popular tourist destination, Orlando boasts an array of theme parks and water parks, but vacations to these attractions come with a hefty price tag. Fortunately, central Florida also offers many hidden gems to explore, allowing you to take in all the City Beautiful has to offer for less than $1,000. Plan your budget-friendly Orlando getaway with these tips.

Spend a Day Downtown

Eola Park Orlando

Image: By Visitor 7 via Wikimedia Commons

Year-round mild temperatures make outdoor activities a must on your Orlando visit, and there’s no better place to start your vacation than in the heart of the city. Spend an afternoon at Lake Eola Park, where you can walk or jog around the 1-mile path surrounding the lake. Hop aboard a swan-shaped paddle-boat to explore the lake, or stay on land and feed the swans that sit on the shore waiting for a snack. Kids can enjoy the playground, and kids and adults of all ages can take in a live music performance at Walt Disney Amphitheater.

If all of that sunshine leaves you famished, you’ll be within walking distance of plenty of restaurants. Sit lakeside and enjoy a casual meal at Relax Grill or more upscale fare at 310 Lakeside. For a heartier meal, try Kres Chophouse on Church Street or nearby Ceviche, a tapas-style restaurant with sangria you must sample.

When the sun sets, downtown Orlando offers lots of entertainment options. Restaurants and bars line the downtown streets, allowing you to take in the city until the wee hours. Sample the two primary entertainment districts, Church Street Station and Wall Street, where you can sit at the bar and watch a game, dance to your favorite music, or enjoy a rooftop view of Orlando’s tallest buildings.

Get in Touch With Nature

Great Blue Herons Florida

Nature lovers have plenty of entertainment options in Orlando. Winter Park is a suburb adjacent to downtown Orlando filled with waterways ready to explore. The Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour allows you to climb aboard a pontoon boat for an hour-long journey that navigates through three of the area’s seven lakes and two man-made canals. Keep an eye out for birds, fish, and, if you’re lucky, an authentic Florida gator lurking in the water.

Nearby Leu Gardens showcases the natural beauty of Orlando. Stroll through the tree- and flower-lined paths of the gardens, where you’ll discover statuesque camphor and oak trees and take in blooming azaleas and bromeliads. If you have a sense of adventure, head to west Orlando near Apopka, where you can bike the 22-mile West Orange Trail, which is open to bicyclists, skaters, skateboarders, and even horseback riders. Take a pit stop at the Oakland Nature Preserve, which features six unpaved hiking trails, where you might spot gopher tortoises, osprey, and even the occasional bobcat.

Hit Attractions for Free

Although you can’t pass through the gates of Disney World or Universal Studios without a pricey ticket, you can enjoy some attractions for free. The recently updated Disney Springs, previously known as Downtown Disney, offers shopping, dining, and entertainment with no entry fee. Let the kids get creative at The Lego Store, where they can build their own masterpieces and see life-sized Lego creations, or let them take a ride on the Marketplace Carousel. Dine overlooking the water at The Boathouse, eat alongside dinosaurs at Rainforest Café, or satisfy your sweet tooth at Sprinkles Bakery.

Downtown Disney Lego Dragon
Image: “Lego Dragon – Downtown Disney” by Josh Hallett under CC BY 2.0

Nearby Universal Citywalk is another low-cost entertainment option steps away from the theme parks. Admission is free, and you can dine, dance, and shop at a fraction of the price of a ticket to the main attraction. In addition to strolling through shops like Element and Fossil, Citywalk offers several festive dining options, including Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. When the sun goes down, sing along at the piano bar at Pat O’Brien’s while sipping a famous—or infamous—hurricane.

Learn and Get Cultured in Orlando

Science Center Orlando FL
Image: by Ebyabe via Wikimedia Commons

The Orlando Science Center, located near downtown, costs just $19.95 for adults and $13.95 for kids ages 3 to 11, and it provides a full day of entertainment. Dig for dinosaur fossils and learn about prehistoric creatures, or hop inside a wind chamber to experience the effects of category 1 hurricane-force winds. Kids can pick oranges in an indoor orange grove or put on a show at Harriett’s KidsTown Theater. Admission includes access to four floors of hands-on exhibits, along with movies on the big screen.

In the same complex in the heart of Orlando sits the Mennello Museum of Art, where you can explore the permanent collection of American artist Earl Cunningham. Outside, you can stroll through a Sculpture Garden, featuring impressive works of art by both U.S.-based and international artists. You’ll also enjoy access to traveling exhibits by artists such as Bo Bartlett, Albert Paley, and more.


Entertainment, dining and an unforgettable vacation exist outside of Orlando’s theme parks. These attractions, coupled with RV rentals, can limit your traveling expenses while allowing you to explore everything Orlando has to offer. Enjoy a budget-friendly trip to the Sunshine State by taking in these reasonably priced attractions, and enjoy the memories.

About the Author:  Barbie Carpenter, the owner of Carpenter Document Consulting, is a seasoned professional writer and editor who enjoys crafting engaging, insightful copy for a web-based audience. Her travel articles that include RV rental tips among many other topics, have appeared on various websites.








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